Keith Papini, the husband of Sherri Papini, has officially filed for divorce after she officially pled guilty to faking her 2016 kidnapping. The California couple has been together since 2009 and has two children. Keith has stated that he filed for divorce due to the trauma that Sherri’s actions put the family through.
In 2016, Sherri disappeared for 22 days after dropping her children off at daycare. This kicked off a nationwide manhunt as law enforcement searched for the missing woman. When she reappeared, she claimed that she had been abducted by “two armed, masked Hispanic women,” who had supposedly chained her in a bedroom, tortured her, and even branded her. Because of her claim, Sherri received more than $30,000 from the California Victim’s Compensation Board.
However, authorities determined that Sherri’s claims did not stand up to scrutiny. In March 2022, Sherri was arrested by the FBI for allegedly lying to federal agents and faking her kidnapping. According to the FBI, Sherri was actually with an ex-boyfriend during the weeks she was missing.
Upon being contacted by the FBI, the ex-boyfriend stated that he had helped her fake the kidnapping after she claimed Keith Papini was abusing her. On April 20th, Sherri signed a plea deal in which she pled guilty to both mail fraud and lying to federal agents regarding her kidnapping.
Keith Papini stood by his wife for years after she committed the hoax. However, her guilty plea was apparently the final straw. He filed for divorce and sole custody of the couple’s children. In to court documents he filed in the split, Keith wrote, “Both I and, especially our children were traumatized by her disappearance and I spent much time and money trying to find my wife. The trauma inflicted on our children at the unexpected loss of their mother was heartbreaking […] I must act decisively to protect my children from trauma caused by their mother and bring stability and calm to their lives.”
When Criminal Trials and Divorces Intersect
Keith’s decision to end his marriage is entirely understandable. However, he will likely face several complications as he attempts to untangle their lives. Divorcing someone who is involved in a criminal trial can make the process significantly harder, particularly if the other party is sentenced to prison. Some of the most obvious considerations include:
Handling Court Dates
If you’re divorcing someone in legal custody, you may struggle to schedule essential court dates. Your spouse retains the right to appear in court if they contest the divorce, even if they’re in prison. This means you’ll need to wait for them to request time and transportation to appear.
If possible, work with your spouse to avoid a contested split. This will help you avoid unnecessary delays should they be sentenced to prison or otherwise held in custody during their criminal trial.
Assets can also be complicated if your spouse is facing criminal charges. For certain crimes, particularly fraud and theft, it’s not uncommon for courts to freeze the accused’s “tainted” assets. This ensures that stolen assets can’t be laundered before a verdict is rendered. For instance, the accounts in which Sherri deposited the fraudulent California Victim’s Compensation Board funds are considered tainted and most likely frozen.
That can make it significantly harder to divide your assets during your split. If your spouse’s tainted assets are frozen, so are yours. If Sherri deposited them into accounts she shared with Keith, he has no more access to them than she does. In cases like these, you may need to wait until the criminal trial is concluded to split your assets. The alternative is to work with an attorney to arrange a split that renders the tainted assets to your partner and leaves you with untainted assets.
Arranging Child Custody
Criminal trials often significantly impact how child custody is awarded. Obviously, children cannot live with a parent who’s imprisoned. Furthermore, courts rarely assign legal custody to a parent in prison due to the legal complications this would entail.
However, a criminal trial isn’t final until a verdict is rendered and penalties are assigned. If you’re filing for sole custody of your children while your co-parent is on trial for criminal charges, you will need to argue why the trial means they shouldn’t receive custody. Still, many courts are sympathetic to parents in these situations as long as they make a clear and persuasive argument.
Keeping High-Profile Divorces Private
One of Keith Papini’s primary goals in filing for divorce is to protect his kids. According to his legal filing, he hopes to shield the children from “the negative impact of their mother’s notoriety.” With the amount of media attention facing the family, Keith will be hard-pressed to accomplish that without careful preparation.
California considers divorces in public courts to be a matter of public record. This means that all documents filed with a general court are accessible to anyone who wants to look for them. To achieve a private divorce, high-profile couples have two main options.
- Uncontested divorces: If you and your spouse can agree on how to split up, you can avoid filing revealing documents in court. While you will still need to file basic documents regarding the reason for your split and child custody claims, you won’t need to make your finances and personal information a matter of public record.
- Private judges: You can also opt to use a private judge to decide your divorce. Private judges don’t post your financial documents or personal information anywhere. The decision remains confidential. The only public information is simple forms referencing any private decrees the judge may have issued; the actual orders and numbers are never exposed.
Streamline Your Divorce Regardless of Criminal Considerations
Keith Papini has been forced to face the fact that his wife isn’t the person he thought she was. It’s natural that being confronted with her lies has led him to file for divorce. Divorce becomes more complicated but also more important if your spouse faces criminal charges.
Get in touch with the expert Marin County divorce lawyers at Kaspar & Lugay, LLP, to start the process today. Don’t waste time on a spouse that’s misled you and turned your life upside down. Let us help you get the divorce you need, escape from your criminal partner, and move on with your life.